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Abby's dream, my catastrophe
Aref Assaf, PhD
July 23, 2007
The article below is a quick response to an piece headlined, "Our
dream will bring us to another land" by an American citizen named
Abigail Leichman. In her article, Abby, who is a staff writer for the
Bergen Record and often writes about food, etiquettes, and home
decorating interests, is offering her good byes as she prepares to
return to her "biblical homeland", Israel. She also writes for Jewish
papers about Israel and other Jewish matters. In fact, she wrote a
rather two-part non descript articles about the recent 'real estate
fair" held in Teaneck to sell American Jews lands to build more
settlements in Israel. Could it be that Abby was influenced by this
event? The organizer's flyer proclaimed: "Come learn how you, a group
of friends, or even a community can own a home and strengthen the
I was very much involved in exposing the supposedly secretive
gathering and followed that by having a letter published on the subject.
My response to this article was very spontaneous because Abby's words
exposed old wounds and shattered dreams. This was a very painful
letter to write but it needed to be said. More than anything else, I
hope Abby will read my words.
I urge you to first read the article then read my short response which
I sent to the Bergen Record as a rebuttal. Much more can and should be
said but to render my response publishable, I had to keep it short. AA
To the Editor
Re: Our dream will bring us to another land
I wish I can turn into piece of garment in Abby Leichman's luggage who
is preparing to go `home' to Israel. Even though I was born in
Palestine and was nurtured by its dry sun and arid soil, I am unable
to join Abby in her journey simply because I am not Jewish. Abby, who
admits to not being "fluent in the local language or culture", and was
probably born in New Jersey, will be welcomed with open arms by other
foreign settlers. While Abby will automatically receive Israeli
citizenship, I will be denied that privilege and, if not thrown back
onto the next departing plane, I may be issued a temporary tourist
visa to my homeland. What a tragedy that so painfully encapsulates but
never honestly conveys the very essence of the Palestinian people's
The supposedly heartwarming story may solicit compassion and `good
wishes' from some readers. Yet it is the tragic destiny of the other
unmentioned side, the Palestinian Arabs who understandably will not
throw the red carpet for Abby. I wish Abby told the readers that her
going home to Israel will mean Palestinians will have lost more of
their lands and groves. This is the area occupied by Israel since
1967. As part of a final peaceful resolution between the Palestinians
and the Jews, this parcel of historic Palestine, the West Bank and
Gaza, is supposed to become the future Palestine state which our
President has envisioned since 2002.
I have no issue with Abby living in Tel Aviv or Beersheba. In fact,
most Palestinians have accepted the two- state solution by ceding 78%
of historic Palestine to Israel and asking for the remainder to be
their future Palestine state. I do, however, have a major issue with
her joining the over 400,000 other settlers who, because of
ideological or monetary incentives, choose to live in stolen lands
belonging to the Palestinians. These lands, through
government-authorized confiscations and illegal and counterfeit
purchases, will be where Abby will build her home. Abby did not share
with us this little secret. Abby's new home will mean that
Palestinians will be squeezed even more into their suffocating
enclaves, surrounded by barbed wire, massive walls, and hundreds of
checkpoints. Abby may never experience being stopped by an Israeli
solder at these checkpoints, deep into the occupied West Bank, because
in fact these structures primarily separate Palestinians from other
Palestinians, separate Palestinians from their fields, from their
places of worship and their schools.
Dear Abby, you tell us that you are returning to your ancestral home
to build a nation. But what about my ancestral home in Palestine, and
what about the thriving nation you will have destroyed? What about my
parents' little village of Allar which you have wiped off the face of
the earth in 1948, rendering its 450 inhabitants refugees for over
five decades? My parents still hold the key to their now non-existent
homestead but which remains vividly alive in their dreams and prayers.
It pains me, Abby that you make no mention of the Palestinian people
on whose corpses you will be stomping, and whose hundreds of villages
which you have destroyed and turned into Jewish-only towns and cities.
These people deserve a home too, Abby - don't they? What gives you
more right to my home? Has God turned into a real estate broker? Will
you ask yourself about the fate of he original owners of the land?
Should they forget about their land, homes, and dreams so that you may
have guilt-free peace of mind and a conscience devoid of doubts? Will
you ask yourself how the Palestinians will feed their children since
you have uprooted thousands of their centuries-old olive trees? How
will they learn since you have destroyed their schools? How will they
treat their sick since you have demolished their hospitals?
Abby, the Palestinians will not share your worry about who will cut
their hair or whether milk will be sold in bottles or plastics bags.
Their worries are more basic than that: they worry about their next
meal; they worry if they will survive another 1000 lbs. bomb thrown at
their apartment. They worry about such things as being able to pass a
checkpoint to make it in time to deliver a baby or receive a blood
transfusion or to farm their fields. I am sure all these matters were
left out from your glossy sales brochure as they somehow
metaphysically never existed and if they do, they should not matter to
Please, Abby, let the world know that your new home will be in an
exclusive settlement built only for the Jews, and Americans of
different faiths may not live there. Please tell the world that the
roads you will travel to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv were built for Jews
only and no Arab cars are permitted on them. You will know an
Arab-owned car because your government issues color- coded licenses
plates and Arabs will have their 'unique' colors. Remember the
fifties and early sixties in America, when you will see a sign"
"Whites Only". We have long since overcame such illegal and moral
repugnant discriminatory polices. In Israel, discrimination against
Arabs is legal because your Supreme Court said so recently and because
your Prime Minister once described our people as crushable grasshoppers.
Please tell the world that the water with which you will quench your
thirst and cleanse your body will be stolen from Arab-owned lands from
which over 90% of the water is diverted to Israel. Arabs, you should
know, aren't even be allowed to dig for water on their own property.
Please tell the world about the wild pigs your government lets loose
into our felids to destroy their crops and to insult their religious
sentiments. Please tell the world about the more than 13,000 Arab
homes that since 1967 your Israeli government destroyed-often with a
Abby, please tell the world how and why your Israeli soldiers, armed
with American-made weapons, shot dead my unarmed eleven-year brother
with an M-16 rifle's bullet which pierced through his young head. How
can you console and comfort my parents who were never allowed to see
their fallen son or even to bury his young shattered remains? Will you
endeavor to find the killers and bring them to justice? Will you help
my parents bring their great loss to a closure?
Abby, before you pack up your belongings, I pray you will unpack your
heart and let in your conscience. Should you decide to stay here in
America, I do hope our path will cross. I suspect that our meeting
will be most revealing because you will finally come face to face with
the other side of your dream-and my catastrophe.
Abby, please tell the world the missing chapter of your saga:
Palestinians will cease to dream of their own home as you begin to
celebrate your homecoming. Please tell the world - for you may never
have inner peace until you do.
Aref Assaf, PhD
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